How should I choose a Chinese Medicine practitioner?

Here are the key points to consider:

1) Training & licensing

2) Are you looking for acupuncture, herbs or both?


Training and licensure for Chinese Medicine in the U.S. requires three to four years (3000+ hours) of postgraduate study. In the State of Colorado, acupuncturists must be licensed and certified. To obtain a license, they are required to pass a national licensing examination consisting of multiple modules, including Chinese medicine theory and practice as well as Western biomedicine, given by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

On the other hand, medical doctors and osteopaths may practice acupuncture in Colorado without any specific training. Chiropractors need only 100 hours of theory and supervised clinical instruction to practice acupuncture.

It is strongly recommended to look for a practitioner with formal training, national certification, and an active license in the practice of Oriental Medicine. Oriental Medicine is an art and a science that takes years to master. There are many styles of acupuncture, and many levels of advanced training that a practitioner may pursue. As a patient, you should feel free to ask about the training and credentials of any potential health care practitioner. Different styles of acupuncture suit different people.

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine is the most difficult aspect of Chinese medicine to practice. It also can make all the difference in the treatment of many internal medicine disorders, such as fertility, emotional problems, women’s issues, digestive disorders, etc. Hence, not only is proper training mandatory, but it requires ongoing study to practice safely and effectively. For better or worse, in the state of Colorado, any kind of practitioner, such as a chiropractor, can “legally” prescribe Chinese herbs without any licensing.

Therefore, if your practitioner prescribes herbs, there are a few things to consider. Upon questioning, no one will actually admit to not being adequately trained, but here are the points to consider.

  • If the practitioner does not write individual prescriptions for each patient and just gives prepackaged/ pre-made products this indicates that their skill and commitment to herbal medicine is not that high. Granted, sometimes such a simplified approach is best, but this method should be the exception rather than the rule.
  • If your practitioner is giving you herbs that are mixed together, it is important to know that the pharmacy is active and you are not receiving aged medicinals. Although these older herbs will most likely not harm you, their active ingredients will be significantly diminished. You should feel free to ask your practitioner questions revealing how long the herbs have been around.
  • Currently there are many pesticides and heavy metals that contaminate Chinese herbs. Please inquire about this issue, because when trying to heal we do not want additional toxins introduced.
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